BERLIN, April 24 — Germany’s domestic spy agency told companies today they should be on guard against industrial espionage by Beijing, warning them not to be naive or over-reliant on China.

The warning from the agency’s deputy head Sinan Selen came days after three German nationals were arrested on suspicion of handing over technology with military applications - a case which has highlighted mounting anxiety across Western Europe about Chinese spying.

Germany is seen as particularly under threat due to its strong industrial sector and good business relations with China, its top trade partner. Chancellor Olaf Scholz visited China just 10 days ago with a business delegation in tow.

The government has urged companies to reduce their risk exposure to China, the world’s second-largest economy, but critics say many still focus on short-term profit over long-term strategy.


“I think we are on a journey from a very naive and highly optimistic attitude towards other economic partners to a more realistic, perhaps more resilient and diversified attitude when it comes to partnerships and protecting Germany as a business location,” Selen said.

“We have numerous examples where a maybe-too-optimistic and positive attitude towards China trade led to these companies practically being dissolved,” he said at an event on China’s impact on German companies’ security.

One issue, he said, was that Chinese firms insist they are entirely private, but they are actually all subject to and backed by Chinese state interests.


And China’s ultimate goal is to become the biggest economic, technological and political world power by 2049, he said.

“German actors are not just interacting with these Chinese counterparts, with their trade partners,” he said. “In the background you have the entire Chinese state...which is pursuing its own interests and using all the necessary and available resources to that end.”

Areas of particular interest to China include aerospace technology, robotics, electromobility and energy saving technology, biomedicine and information technology, he said.

The spy agency wants to increasingly monitor Chinese activities regarding university spin-offs and startups given Beijing was seeking to obtain civil-military technologies through research cooperation.

Selen said Germany was in general facing big espionage challenges.

The arrest last week of two German-Russian nationals on suspicion of plotting sabotage attacks, including on U.S. military facilities, pointed to a “new quality” in espionage operations which went beyond information-gathering and influencing society. — Reuters